Randomized controlled trial of an Internet intervention for problem gambling provided with or without access to an Internet intervention for co-occurring mental health distress.

Available online article from Internet Interventions via ScienceDirect.

Background and aims
The current randomized controlled trial tested whether there was benefit to providing an online gambling intervention and a separate self-help mental health intervention for anxiety and depression (i.e. MoodGYM) (G + MH), compared to only a gambling intervention (G only) among people with co-occurring gambling problems and mental health distress. The primary outcome of interest was improvement in gambling outcomes. Secondary analyses also tested for the impact of the combined intervention on depression and anxiety outcomes.
Participants who were concerned about their gambling were recruited to help evaluate an online intervention for gamblers. Those who met criteria for problem gambling were randomized to receive either the G only or the G + MH intervention. Participants were also assessed for current mental health distress at baseline, with three quarters (n = 214) reporting significant current distress and form the sample for this study. Participants were followed-up at 3- and 6-months to assess changes in gambling status, and improvements in depression and anxiety.
Follow-up rates were poor (47% completed at least one follow-up). While there were significant reductions in gambling outcomes, as well as on measures of current depression and anxiety, there was no significant difference in outcomes between participants receiving the G only versus the G + MH intervention.
Discussion and conclusion
There does not appear to be a benefit to providing access to an additional online mental health intervention to our online gambling intervention, at least among participants who are concerned about their gambling. Full article

Reference: Cunningham, J.A., Hodgins, D.C., Mackenzie, C.S., Godinhoa, A., Schell, C., Kushnirc, V., & Hendershot, C.S. (2019). Randomized controlled trial of an Internet intervention for problem gambling provided with or without access to an Internet intervention for co-occurring mental health distress. Internet Interventions, 17. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214782918300861


Precious and worthless: A comparative perspective on loot boxes and gambling.

Available online article from the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology made available via the University of Minnesota Law School.

Abstract: Odds-based microtransactions in video games, or “loot boxes,” offer users a chance to get special game items for actual money (i.e., legal tender), as opposed to acquiring this “loot” through in-game achievements. This feature provides revenue for game developers and allows users to acquire items that would otherwise require hours of gameplay. But loot boxes threaten to degrade game design and foist addictive mechanics on vulnerable users. Loot-box purchasers, much like pathological gamblers placing a wager, report an initial rush when opening a loot box and then a wave of regret and shame. This problem is especially acute in underage consumers who spend thousands of dollars to gain a desired item. Governments are aware of this disturbing trend and are attempting to regulate or outright ban the practice.
Present attempts to constrain game developers are predicated on a finding that selling random virtual items is in fact gambling. That approach is flawed. Loot boxes are unlikely to meet the legal requirements of gambling on account of two factors: users are guaranteed to receive at least one item and all items offered have no tangible value. Moreover, prohibiting the practice may encourage political actors to further censor video games, a popular scapegoat following school shootings and other tragic events. While loot boxes may not constitute gambling, the troublingly opaque nature of loot box odds warrants intervention. Accordingly, this Essay offers a novel dual-pronged transparency-based solution that avoids an outright ban on the activity. First, the odds of obtaining specific loot should be disclosed to consumers. Second, regulators should require game developers to rate such games as appropriate for adults, not children.
Available online

Reference: Moshirnia, A.V. (2018). Precious and worthless: A comparative perspective on Loot Boxes and gambling. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 20(1), 77-114. Retrieved from: https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/mjlst/vol20/iss1/5

The Same or Different? Convergence of Skin Gambling and Other Gambling Among Children

Available online – article from the Journal of Gambling Studies via SpringerLink.

Abstract: There is increasing attention on the introduction of gambling-like practices within video games. Termed convergence, this has been explored from the viewpoint of the product, examining similarities in game/gambling mechanics. Understanding convergence of practice is essential to map the epidemiology of these behaviours, especially among children. This paper focuses on the betting of skins within video games to explore co-occurrence with other forms of gambling among British children aged 11–16. Analysing the British Youth Gambling Survey showed that 39% of children who bet on skins in the past month had also gambled on other activities. Betting on skins and other forms of gambling increased with age and concordance of skin gambling/betting was greatest for those who also gambled online. Among gamblers, those who bet skins had higher rates of at-risk and problem gambling than those who did not (23% vs. 8%), though they had a greater breath of gambling involvement. Skin gambling alone was not significantly associated with at-risk gambling when other forms of gambling activity were taken into account. Skin betting and gambling on other activities cluster together, especially where the medium underpinning the behaviours is the same. Children who engage in both skin gambling/betting and other forms of gambling should be considered at-risk for the experience of harms because of their heightened engagement in gambling and gambling-like activities. Access article online

Reference: Wardle, H. (2019). The Same or Different? Convergence of Skin Gambling and Other Gambling Among Children. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09840-5

Gambling on Smartphones: A study of a potentially addictive behaviour in a naturalistic setting [open access article]

Abstract: Smartphone users engage extensively with their devices, on an intermittent basis for short periods of time. These patterns of behaviour have the potential to make mobile gambling especially perseverative. This paper reports the first empirical study of mobile gambling in which a simulated gambling app was used to measure gambling behaviour in phases of acquisition and extinction. We found that participants showed considerable perseverance in the face of continued losses that were linearly related to their prior engagement with the app. Latencies between gambles were associated with the magnitude of reinforcement; more positive outcomes were associated with longer breaks between play and a greater propensity to end a gambling session. Greater latencies were associated with measurements of problem gambling, and perseverance with gambling-related cognitions and sensation-seeking behaviour. Access full article

Citation: James, R.J.E., O’Malley C., & Tunney R.J. (2019). European Addiction Research, 25, 30–40. DOI: 10.1159/000495663

An exploratory study of gamblers’ perceptions of music’s effects on gambling behaviour [open access article]

Abstract: Background music is often present in gambling environments and has been found to influence gamblers’ behaviour. However, little is known about gamblers’ perception of environmental influences, including music, and whether gamblers believe that such influences can impact upon their gambling behaviour. An online questionnaire was administered to 136 gamblers to probe the perceived effects of gambling operator-selected and self-selected music on the cognitive, emotional, and behavioural aspects of gambling … This study demonstrates that self-selected music is sometimes purposefully used by gamblers to support the cognitive and emotional aspects of gambling. However, as few gamblers believed that music could influence the cognitive, emotional, and behavioural aspects of gambling, this research reveals a disparity between subjective opinions and objective evidence, as gathered in published empirical laboratory experiments. This indicates the need to improve gamblers’ awareness of the potential influence of background music on the gambling experience. Access full article

Citation: Stephanie Bramley, Nicola Dibben, & Richard Rowe. (2018). Journal of Gambling Issues, 40. 

Effects of prevention and harm reduction interventions on gambling behaviours and gambling related harm: An umbrella review [open access article]

Harms related to gambling have been found not only to affect problem gamblers, but also to occur amongst low- and moderate-risk gamblers. This has resulted in calls for a public health approach to address a possible ‘prevention paradox’ in gambling related harm. The aim of this study was to evaluate the systematic review evidence base on the effects of prevention and harm reduction interventions on gambling behaviours, and gambling related harm. We also aimed to examine differential effects of interventions across socio-demographic groups. Access full article


  • First umbrella review evaluating the effectives of prevention and harm reduction interventions on gambling behaviour.
  • Found evidence of 10 reviews reporting 55 unique primary studies.
  • Evidence relates mostly to pre-commitment/limit setting, self-exclusion, youth prevention programmes and messages/feedback.
  • Review-level evidence is poor, and no review reported differential effects of interventions across sociodemographic groups.

Naoimh McMahon, Katie Thomson, Eileen Kaner, & Clare Bambra. (2019). Addictive Behaviors, 90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.11.048.

Hardwired for risk: The clinical utility of exploring evolutionary aspects of gambling [open access article]

Introduction: Evolutionary perspectives increasingly inform the research on addiction. As this knowledge base advances, an increasing corresponding need to translate these understandings into a manner that promotes clinical innovation has consequently emerged. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of emerging perspectives on evolutionary and neurobiological aspects of gambling and to consider how such perspectives can inform and enhance clinical practice. Access full article

By John Paulson, Department of Social Work, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, IN, USA. Journal of Gambling Issues, 2018.